Rhode Island College: Punishment of Professor for Refusal to Censor Speech


Rhode Island College

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Case Overview


At Rhode Island College, Dr. Lisa Church was threatened with disciplinary action after refusing to punish two mothers for making constitutionally protected comments that offended another mother at RIC's cooperative preschool, of which Professor Church is the coordinator. The offended mother filed a "discrimination" complaint with RIC asking for "some action to be taken" against Church and others at the preschool. RIC college counsel Nicholas Long initially expressed reservations about the legality of proceeding with hearings regarding the complaint, but he later mysteriously reversed himself. RIC then advanced the formal hearing process, informing Church that she faced charges of "hostile environment racism." FIRE wrote to RIC President John Nazarian twice, each time asking him to call off the unconstitutional proceedings, but Nazarian refused to stop the hearings. Although in the end Associate Dean Scott Kane decided that no formal action needed to be taken, Nazarian still refused to concede that the case was a First Amendment violation. As a result, the RIC faculty union filed a grievance challenging the university's unconstitutional speech codes.